Geelani, Mirwaiz Meet Jethmalani Panel2 June 2011
Srinagar: Noted Indian jurist Ram Jethmalani appeared to have struck a resonant chord with top Kashmiri separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani, claiming that “new hope” had risen of a solution to the 63-year-old issue over the Himalayan state in what the aging leader had said during their meeting on Thursday. Heading a four-member team of his recently-revived Kashmir Committee on a trip to the valley, BJP MP met Geelani and several of his associates behind closed doors at the separatist leader’s residence here this afternoon to kick off the panel’s fresh efforts to engage mainly with groups opposing Indian rule in the conflict-torn state. The tone and tenor of what Geelani had spoken today had given “rise to new hopes about a solution to the Kashmir issue,” Jethmalani said after the meeting, without disclosing the reasons for his optimism. Amid the grim aspect of the Kashmir issue by Geelani recounting killings of civilians and “forcible Indian occupation since 1947,” the one-hour meeting was also learnt to have had lighter moments, with the two leaders sparring over each other’s age and the valley’s unpredictable political weather. Having famously claimed credit for breaking up the united Hurriyat Conference – one of whose factions Geelani now heads – in the Committee’s earlier avatar nearly a decade ago when the separatist alliance opted for talks with New Delhi, Jethmalani appeared to have faced no recriminations from the Kashmiri leader today, and came out of the meeting advocating a peaceful solution to the six-decade old issue. “I have known Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s views for long,” the he said , admitting ‘obstacles’ in the path to resolving Kashmir, which, he said, needed to be surmounted urgently. “Kashmir is the state needing peace the most. Peaceful means have to be found therefore to resolve the issue,” Jethmalani, who bestirred the Kashmir Committee afresh recently after having virtually dropped out of sight on this front following the disintegration of the Hurriyat Conference around the turn of the century, said. Having broken away when the alliance opened the now-stalled talks with New Delhi nearly a decade ago, Geelani defended his decision to meet the Kashmir Committee, saying that, unlike the centre’s interlocutors whom he has studiously shunned, it was a non-government initiative “rejected both by New Delhi and its agents in the state.” “The Hurriyat has adopted the stand to welcome those coming at a non-government level, and to apprise them of the true situation in Kashmir, because the Indian media does not portray the correct picture before its masses,” Geelani said. “I told the visiting team that India’s occupation of Kashmir was unjustified, and also apprised it of the 118 killings last year and the brutality of the Indian forces,” he said. The Jethmalani panel also met the chairman of the rival Hurriyat faction, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who said that activating the Kashmir Committee was a ‘good step’ for Indian civil society groups to make headway on the Kashmir issue. The Mirwaiz, who was accompanied by Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat, Bilal Ghani Lone, Mukhtar Ahmad Waza and Musaddiq Aadil in the meeting, said that the two sides had agreed to hold more talks where “new proposals would be made.” “I told the panel that the future of India, Pakistan and Kashmiris was linked to the Kashmir issue, and stability could not be expected in the region until an acceptable solution was found,” he said.